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Religious bullying is a problem around the world

Vigilante enforcement of theocratic codes can crop up when a minority group doesn't conform.

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A friend, a Pakistani journalist, recently came out of the troubled Swat valley in northwest Pakistan and told a chilling tale. He said, "It is now halal [religiously sanctioned] to kill journalists."

The tribal Muslim clerics in Swat, he said, have declared open season on reporters whose writings they disapprove of. My friend, a brave and devout Sunni Muslim, seemed quite shaken, having spent two weeks reporting under threat in Swat, an area once called the Switzerland of Pakistan. Several journalists have already been murdered for a perceived breach of theocratic codes.

Such violence is religious "correctness" in the extreme, but vigilante enforcement of theocratic codes can crop up whenever and wherever an individual or minority does not conform to the religious tenets of the majority.

In the United States, when Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (D) of Minnesota asked to be sworn in using the Koran, the personal attacks on him from the Christian right were just short of poisonous.

In areas such as the Balkans and Iraq, religious intimidation has taken the form of ethnic cleansing, forcibly coercing religious minorities to emigrate.

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